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Carton Brewing Company - Atlantic Highlands

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This is my first chowhound review as my friend Jim finally convinced me to actually write a review and stop mooching. It is great joining all those that have given me great advice over the years.

Now down to business. I am surprised that there hasn't been much discussion on New Jersey's craft beer scene. So I decided to encourage all of you to visit my favorite Carton Brewing in Atlantic Highlands. They are turning out some great beer and are also known to experiment with brewing techniques and/or ingredients For example, they are currently serving a porter that was aged in Brinley rum barrels that were shipped up from the Caribbean. Brinley's rum has ties to Atlantic Highlands as well. The name of the beer is Shipwreck. I love most if not all of their beers, but my favorite is their flagship session ale called Boat beer. It taste like a really good west coast style IPA, but comes in at only 4.2% alcohol. No more excuses for drinking bud or coors light!

I moved down from the city over a year ago and this local business makes me glad I did. The owners and staff are amazing and they give you a tour of the facility on your first visit to their brewery. I hope this helps for all those beer lovers that may not have known about Carton. They opened a little over two years ago.

Kane Brewing company in Ocean, NJ is also pumping out fantastic beer. If you see either on tap, be sure to check them out. Any other fans of NJ beer out there?

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  1. Here is a pic of the tasting room.

    Sorry not sure what happened to the picture.

    1. Welcome to CH, LifeGeek. Thank you for your reviews (here and on the other thread).

      I've been meaning to stop in the brewing co. Now I'll make a point of it soon.

      1 Reply
      1. re: HillJ

        Thanks HillJ! I hope you enjoy the brewery. It is in a orange building ver close to the flaky tart which is equally amazing.

        The tour and a generous tasting is around five bucks. They have recently started canning their Boat beer. It tastes amazing straight from the can. You can also buy a refillable growler and take your favorite home.

        It can get very crowded in the tasting room. I would suggest getting there right as they open if possible, but you never know when the crowds could show.

      2. http://cartonbrewing.com/

        1. Love Carton Brewing. Their Red Rye Returning beer is outstanding, possibly my favorite beer. Their 077xx double ipa is also great. After a nice day at the beach I stopped by their brewery in Atlantic Highlands and grabbed a growler of the Red Rye beer for like $21 (including glass growler). Would like to go back and taste a few of their other offerings as not many places in north Jersey have any Carton options. 2 things - please get a sign on the brewery. I drove around the block like 3 times looking for the place. looks like a residence, nothing says Carton outside. Also, the website is terrible. But who cares when the beer is great. keep up the good work.

          12 Replies
          1. re: yogi70

            Hello Yogi70, I too love red rye and 077xx. (Btw, if everyone doesn't know already 077xx stands for our zip code in monmouth county. It is affectionately called oh-dub by the staff and regulars.)

            I admit it was hard to find for me the first time too. I spoke to the owners, Auggie and Chris Carton, and they said the reason for lack of signage is because they are across the street from a school. I would have been in big trouble growing up if that were the case for my school!

            My friend who is a software engineer has the same complaints about their website. I really love the drawings, but they are using somekind of serious flash or something that makes it virtually impossible to navigate.

            Another beer they did this summer that I found outstanding and unique was their beer called Digger. It was a gose-style beer made with actual local clams. It is a seasonal beer so may be very hard to find right now. Here's a video on the beer. They also do a video for each beer they make so this may be interesting for some of you out there. Cheers!

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EbKC...

            1. re: LifeGeek

              Big Carton fan here....good beer and good guys. I run boat on tap in my house. Its an amazingly good session beer.

              1. re: corvette johnny

                Hello corvette johnny,

                I've been trying to get them to come up with a Boat IV drip. It is seriously so addictive.

                1. re: LifeGeek

                  yeah I drink a lot of boat LOL

                  I heard from a reputable source that there is going to be a cool craft beer bar opening where the old Bobo's/4th quarter used to be. Apparently these guys are really into the scene and the place will have over 30 taps (as well as GOOD bottles.)

                  Does anyone know any more details? My source was kind of vague as he is in the food industry and didn't want to divulge too much (probably the wish of the owners)

                  1. re: corvette johnny

                    Johhny,

                    I believe that rumor was awhile back after the Sandy storm washed out Twin Lights Taphouse in Highlands. TLT was looking at the former BoBo's site in Atlantic Highlands as a place to sign a lease and relocate. But it never happened.

                    That is, unless your rumor is new and there is another beer bar that is looking at BoBo's. Havent heard that one yet.

                    1. re: corvette johnny

                      I've been hearing the same thing about the new pub for maybe a year now. The building is extremely beautiful and would make the perfect craft beer pub if done right. I heard that there was some political issues about who would run the place that I won't delve into because it is heresay. I'm really nervous that it will just end up some generic beer bar that serves mediocre food and focuses on the club scene at night.

                      Also, I was shocked at how the liquor licenses work in NJ. Apparently, they are extremely expensive even though you can take them with you to other locations unlike the city. But this expense is a big hurdle for someone wanting to open a pub/bar without a lot of financial backing.

                      I just hope something can come close to Twin Light Taphouse. That was a massive loss due to Sandy for our area in terms of food and drink. I believe the owner of TLT was in the running, but I think things fell through due to some political stuff. I would love to see him open a new spot and that would have been the perfect venue. The guy and his chef are seriously genius.

                      1. re: LifeGeek

                        Yes, its not mark from TLT...other guys. And I do miss the tap house.

                        yeah the liquor license thing in NJ is crazy.

                        1. re: corvette johnny

                          Johnny,

                          Have you been to Maloneys on Main Street in Matawan ? 120 Intl beers on tap and VG food. Best beer bar in the Tri state area IMHO. They have multiple Carton and Kane brews on tap at all times.

                          1. re: scrappyone

                            agreed...this could be one of the best beer bars in the country. The owner even designed his own tap system that is incredibly precise and efficient. I haven't had their food yet so good to hear you like it. I've heard mixed things about the menu. When you walk in and see 150 taps staring at you, food may be the last thing on your mind until you get up to drive home I guess.

                            1. re: LifeGeek

                              No but Maloneys is on my radar. I have been to the Yard House in Waikiki which I imagine is similar. That place has apparently the most taps in the world...well over 200....pretty sweet spot. I think there is one in boston too.

                              Head high is a killer ipa. I'd say kane takes the IPA title between the two but there are so many good ipas out there that I don't think it stands out as being "epic." On the other hand, the boat beer to me is outrageously good and I don't know of anything quite like it that is so flavorful, light and low in alcohol. I'm not comparing the two styles, just my two favorite beers from each respective brewery. Oh wait, I need to mention Malus.Kanes "big" beers are great. I am a huge fan of that but obviously that is more of a special occasion type of beer, not a session ale.

                              1. re: corvette johnny

                                There is a Yard House in the Palisades Center (Mall) in W. Nyack...well over 200 taps, front and center. I've been there several times...good food, much better than your typical pub grub kind of place. A lot of variety on the menu, and more upscale than pub grub, but it works well.

                                1. re: ELA

                                  Jack's Goal Line Stand in Long Branch also has quite a few taps of craft beer on tap as well. I like going on a weekend afternoon to beat the crowd a bit unless a big game is on.

            2. I love Carton Brewing - the concept, the execution - I just wish they made a beer I can drink...

              I'm a lager gal. Can't stand the bite of hops. Some of my favorite beers are Yeungling, Harp and Keegan's Ale's Mother's Milk Stout. Carton offers *nothing* that falls in my wheelhouse.

              11 Replies
              1. re: jrzcat

                Have you tried BDG? That is not bitter at all and you might like it. They designed it as a beer to drink with food.

                1. re: jrzcat

                  Hi jrzcat,

                  They have a milk stout on tap at the brewery that you would probably like if you like keegan's. Carton Canyon is their lager made with blue agave that can be found at the brewery and Copper Canyon on 1st Avenue. They have a porter aged in rum barrels on tap called shipwreck that is good. Their pumpkin cream ale is light on hops as well without using the spices to make it taste like pumpkin pie.

                  I happen to be a massive fan of hops, but feel like they have a few selections for those that prefer the malty side of beer.

                  I hope you will give it a second try. Trust me, hops begin to grow on you so after several more trips you may find yourself a hop head like me!

                  1. re: LifeGeek

                    I'm sure you can appreciate, Life Geek, that my tastebuds have never lied to me, just like yours have never lied to you. I have tried Carton's lager and pumpkin ale - not even close to my idea of a sweet and creamy beer (again, Yeungling). Thanks.

                    1. re: jrzcat

                      I totally respect that. I guess the point I was trying to make is that one's taste in things can change over time. My taste has certainly morphed over the years. So even though my taste buds may not have lied to me back then, they were unaware of certain things that I had yet to try. I can't imagine drinking some of the stuff that I thought was good even two or three years ago. Exploration and experimentation can lead to some great discoveries. Maybe in another five years I won't like what I'm having right now. There is something to the saying acquired taste I guess.

                      1. re: jrzcat

                        Ah...jrzcat...it's too bad that the Vernon Valley Brewery isn't around anymore. They were NJ's first micro (like, more than 25 years ago) and while there are a couple of good small brewers in NJ (and a few real dogs), none are doing anything near the quality that Vernon Valley (later called Clement's) were doing. They were just too much ahead of their time, I guess.
                        Based on what you describe, you would have LOVED their truly German style lagers.

                        Overall, the NJ craft scene doesn't particularly impress me overall. I do however particularly like the stuff that Cape may Brewing is putting out. If you ever have the chance to check them out, I'd be interested in your impression!
                        Meanwhile, I'm anxiously looking forward to giving Carton a spin. I've been hearing good things (in addition to the accolades here).

                        1. re: The Professor

                          Proffy,

                          If you are in the area of Carton you may as well swing by Kane as well. They are both open for tastings Friday evening and Saturday afternoons. Very different operations but both produce some VG beers.

                          1. re: scrappyone

                            I would say if you can't find at least one beer that you like from these two spots, then you are just not a craft beer drinker. We are blessed to have both.

                            1. re: LifeGeek

                              Definitely gonna check them out. I've heard great things about both of these breweries.

                              To be clear, I'm _definitely_ a craft beer drinker and a fan, and have been one since the very beginning of the craft movement. Technically, it could be agued that I was a craft beer fan even since _before_ the movement actually took hold. Contrary to the prevailing mythology and marketing spin, there were a good number of craftworthy American beers available even in the 1960s when I bought my first 2 sixpacks (one was a Bock beer, the other was an IPA)...those good beers were just harder to find back then. Back then, I was roundly mocked for not drinking "normal" beer. Of course, I've now gotten the last laugh! :-)

                              1. re: The Professor

                                Nice! People with curiosity and great taste tend to be ahead of the herd. The younger drinkers really seem to appreciate craft more than any other generation. It is great to walk into these places and feel the energy and passion. I would also say I've discovered a lot of great meals here just by striking up conversation with other patrons. Breweries are becoming the center of communities looking to elevate quality of food and drink. Too bad it didn't catch on when you did! Cheers.

                                1. re: LifeGeek

                                  By the way, unfortunately I'm not one of those younger drinkers. My first beers came in 40 oz. glass back in the late 80s! How far your boundaries can expand. I wasn't even really a hard core craft beer drinker until about 10 years ago. I always kick myself for taking so long, but even back then the options were limited unless you lived in certain pockets of the country.

                                  Kudos to the Prof for being an OG -- Original Guzzler!

                                  1. re: LifeGeek

                                    One final thought, I'm not sure if I sent a link to Carton's web videos, but thought I would pass along. They have a short video for most of the beers they release on you tube. They are surprisingly well made and give you a sense for what they are trying to accomplish. They currently have 23 videos going back to when they opened a few years back.

                                    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMRNX...

                  2. While Carton makes decent craft beer most beer afficionados agree that Kane in Ocean Township is making far better beer and more interesting styles than Carton.

                    But theres plenty of room in the marketplace for both breweries to succeed.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: scrappyone

                      Agreed...Kane is really good. Love the Head High IPA. Nice atmosphere as well.

                      1. re: bifpocaroba

                        Yes, the atmosphere is cool with the picnic tables in the back area. Just don't let the office park fool you and it can be tricky to find the first time as well. It is well worth the hunt tho...Head High and Overhead by Kane are two of my favorite IPAs anywhere. They may be my favorite IPAs in NJ although I still love 077xx by Carton.

                        I think Cricket Hill's Hopnotic is also a solid IPA. I've yet to visit their facility.

                        I really appreciate everyone's feedback on this thread. I'm so thrilled by what is going on in NJ's beer scene. We were late to the party thanks to some antiquated laws, but are catching up fast. I'm still looking for a NJ brewer to make a Fist Pump-kin Ale and make it official!

                      2. re: scrappyone

                        Hi scrappyone,

                        I agree that there's plenty of room for both. In fact, there's probably room for 50 more.

                        I do have to say I slightly disagree with Carton not doing interesting styles. I think they have experimented a ton not all to success, but many have turned out solid. They have done a gose with clams, a wit, porter aged in rum barrel, a pumpkin that doesn't taste like pumpkin pie, a black IPA, an english special bitter, several single hops series some using wet hops when in season, etc. Being that beer is subjective even among aficionados, I think everyone should try both and decide which way to go.

                        I'm just glad I can choose between Kane or Carton instead of the choices we had four or five years ago. I actually like both breweries a lot just in different ways or when having different meals.

                      3. Not that the beer great, but does anyone know a time frame on the new triumph in Red bank?

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: corvette johnny

                          It seems like it will be a part of a new apartment/retail development. I'm not sure when they plan to be finished with the development.

                          In addition to the apartments, The West Side lofts will feature 25,000 sf. of retail/restaurant space which will be anchored by the award winning Triumph Brewery.

                          http://www.loftsinredbanknj.com/cs/re...

                          1. re: LifeGeek

                            So I got some new info.....better info on that new bar opening up in Atlantic Highlands. (the old 4th quarter / bobos) It seems like this is going to happen this winter. It is going to be operated by two well known local guys. Lets just say that I like their current restaurant a lot and can't wait to see what they do here. I can almost guarantee the beers won't be cheap but it should be interesting to see what they get their hands on and what type of food they offer. I am definitely excited about this place now knowing who is behind it : )

                            1. re: corvette johnny

                              I'm wondering if you heard the same person/people that I heard was behind it. The story I heard makes me a little worried about this place's fate. Good to hear that my information has a chance of being wrong. This can turn out really great or very generic.

                              For other beer options, believe it or not Claddagh in Highlands is now offering a solid craft beer selection on tap. I went for the first time over the weekend and they had at least 10-15 very solid options locally and nationally. The problem was that the two beers we ordered both had an overlay of the same stale, skunky,corn-based beer. I'm assuming there is a major problem with the cleanliness of their tap lines or cross contamination or something.

                              I would really like them to get their act together because their selection was pretty solid. Any thoughts on how to approach the subject with the manager there without getting shanked!?

                              The place was really bright and spacious inside. I've always heard negative things about the place, but was pleasantly surprised minus the skunk beer taste. Can you imagine my delight at seeing head high on tap and then it tasting like
                              sh!t? I left very depressed, but yet optimistic.

                              1. re: LifeGeek

                                I haven't been in a while since Benny owned it. I am not sure who owns it but I would just see if you can talk to the manager. I am sure they would help (well hopefully)

                                1. re: LifeGeek

                                  Great info LifeGeek. As a lover of Kane Head High I also would be bummed if it came out that way.

                                  I would have called over the manager and shown him the beer and indicated what was wrong with it. I'd also ask him to taste it. At that point he should admit that there is a problem. I'd then tell him about proper cleaning of the lines. Nothing worse than skunky beer. I live near this place and would like to go but will hesitate until they get their act together.

                                  1. re: scrappyone

                                    Thanks scrappyone. I like to give places the benefit of the doubt and especially don't like trashing local spots, but it was bad. There was just a really friendly young guy behind the bar and some surly customers so I thought it wise to wait. Haha. I will go back one afternoon and see if it was a one off occurrence. I really want to be able to call this my local. I too live close by.

                                    1. re: LifeGeek

                                      Did anyone see they have boat beer in cans now? I have a 4 pack in the fridge now.....and a half barrel at my bar lol.

                                      Next summer is going to be great....can't wait to take some of those babies fishing